Ensign Calls Senate Armed Services Committee Report A ‘Democrat Partisan’ Document

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"Ensign Calls Senate Armed Services Committee Report A ‘Democrat Partisan’ Document"

Today, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) went on MSNBC to attack the Senate Armed Services Committee report on the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees. When host Chris Matthews asked Ensign whether he was shocked that our interrogation practices were based on those used by Chinese Communists to elicit false information from U.S. troops, the senator criticized him for being “inflammatory.”

When Matthews insisted that he wasn’t being inflammatory because he was reading directly from the report, Ensign tried to discredit the entire document by saying it was a “Democrat partisan” report:

ENSIGN: Chris, the reason I said it is because you didn’t preface that with saying that was a Democrat report. That was a Democrat partisan report. And you have to understand where the people who were doing that report — where their ideology comes from.

MATTHEWS: Well, apparently, Sen. John McCain is part of what you call a “Democrat report.” It’s the full committee report. … [I]t’s the Armed Services Committee report. It went through three months of review by the Defense Department, until its final release just yesterday. It seems to me this was vetted, sir. And you say this was some Democrat report.

ENSIGN: The Democrats are in control of all of the committees. This was a Democrat majority report. This was not with the participation of the minority where the minority signed it, “Yes, we agree with these views.”

Watch it:

Ensign is right that there are often committee reports produced and released by only the minority or the majority. This report, however, was not one of them. The first page of the detainee report makes it clear that it is a document from the “Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate.” ThinkProgress spoke with a committee spokesman who confirmed that the full, unanimous committee released the report. When talking with Levin today, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell noted that Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham also endorsed the report.

Additionally, documents clearly show that the Bush administration’s interrogation program was based on the U.S. military program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE), which is used to train U.S. troops if they are ever tortured by an enemy that doesn’t adhere to the Geneva Conventions. As the report notes, SERE techniques “were based, in part, on Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to elicit false confessions.”

Transcript:

MATTHEWS: I was stunned, senator, to read — again, people have read it before — the ideas for how to use things like torture techniques or coercive techniques like waterboarding and all the rest of it, came from our study in preparation for our GIs going into North Korea and facing the Chinese Communists who were notoriously quite ready to use these kinds of techniques with regard to their purposes — which was to get our troops to lie and say things that weren’t true. Our purpose is to protect our country by getting people to tell the truth. But doesn’t it shock you that we went and studied the tactics of the Chi Comms?

ENSIGN: Well, Chris, I think that you’re making some pretty inflammatory statements.

MATTHEWS: Which one? Which one?

ENSIGN: Because you’re comparing — the part about studying what the North Koreans, for instance, used —

MATTHEWS: No, the Chinese Communists in North Korea used.

ENSIGN: Okay, and the Chinese Communists. They didn’t just use things like waterboarding. They went way beyond that, and it’s just like the North Vietnamese. They went way beyond what most Americans would agree is torture.

But when you look at the reports that actually were released —

MATTHEWS: No, don’t call me inflammatory. I’m quoting from the committee report of Carl Levin. If he’s inflammatory, say that.

ENSIGN: But that’s a Democrat report. That’s Democrat committee report. That is a partisan committee report. […]

MATTHEWS: Okay, let me show you on camera what I’m looking at. This is the Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody. Now let me read you what you said I was being inflammatory. Let me read to you directly from this report — the primary document here.

“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own.” This is the report of the committee — the full committee. “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”

Well, I don’t know how you can accuse me of being inflammatory when I’m reading directly from the committee report, and they particularly talked to the Abu Ghraib situation — the “few bad apples” — the language you just used.

ENSIGN: Chris, the reason I said it is because you didn’t preface that with saying that was a Democrat report. That was a Democrat partisan report. And you have to understand where the people who were doing that report — where their ideology comes from.

MATTHEWS: Well, apparently, Sen. John McCain is part of what you call a “Democrat report.” It’s the full committee report. So why do you keep saying “Democrat” — using that adjective?

ENSIGN: Because it was a Democrat report.

MATTHEWS: What do you mean by that? Because it’s the Armed Services Committee report. It went through three months of review by the Defense Department, until its final release just yesterday. It seems to me this was vetted, sir. And you say this was some Democrat report.

ENSIGN: The Democrats are in control of all of the committees. This was a Democrat majority report. This was not with the participation of the minority where the minority signed it, “Yes, we agree with these views.”

MATTHEWS: Well, Kelly O’Donnell of NBC News has reported that John McCain, Armed Services ranking member, has signed off on the document I’m reading from.

ENSIGN: Well, I disagree with you. We had a discussion at lunch about this and many members of the intel committee and armed services committee completely disagreed with the report. That’s why I said it was a Democrat partisan report.

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